The cover to TOPS, which is yellow with text reading TOPS: The Complete Collection of Charles Biro's Visionary 1949 Comic Book Series, Michael T. Gilbert. The word TOPS is on top in a bold red font. The middle section contains an illustration of a blonde woman touching her pearl necklace while watching a man in a suit kiss a woman in a yellow dress from behind a tied-back curtain.
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Charles Biro, Michael T. Gilbert

Tops: The Complete Collection of Charles Biro's Visionary 1949 Comic Book Series

On sale date: March 15, 2022

Before EC, before His Name is…Savage!, before underground comix, this volume collects a pioneering attempt — from the creators of the first true crime comic — to publish stories aimed at adults in the comic book format.

From their inception in 1935, comic books — starring Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel — had been primarily written for and aimed at adolescents. There were always the occasional outlier artists who pushed back against the commercial constraints of comic books and envisioned the next evolutionary artistic leap in the artform: Charles Biro was one of those artists.

In 1949, the ambitious Biro — who had previously co-created the realistically brutal comic Crime Does Not Pay — edited and wrote an oversized comic aimed at adults, called Tops. Like several other radical adult comics projects that would follow, it proved to be a commercial failure and lasted only two Life magazine-sized issues. The original comics have since become a legendary holy grail among comics fans and historians, fetching as much as $6,000 on the collector's market: written about but rarely seen and never reprinted. Until now.

Fantagraphics' Tops collects both issues of these oversized experimental comics in their entirety. Some of the best craftsmen working in comics at that time drew these pulpy, sexy, and melodramatic stories: Dan Barry, George Tuska, and others. It includes two stunning pre-EC crime tales illustrated by Reed Crandall, reminiscent of his Crime SuspenStories work. Actor Melvyn Douglas (believe it or not) takes the reader on a tour of utopia, entitled "How Would You Live Under A World Government?" — a positive spin on global Socialism!

A treasure trove of fascinating and revelatory comics history for scholars and fans, this compilation includes an introduction by the editor, the historian and cartoonist Michael T. Gilbert, as well as several other essays providing background on the creation of the series and the publisher, editors, and cartoonists who realized it. It includes a chronicle in essay form of experimental, adult comics endeavors throughout the first half of the 20th century. Tops is a landmark work of historical importance and a mind-boggling reading experience from a bygone era meticulously restored and reproduced in a deluxe hardcover in its originally published dimensions.

The first 60 orders of Tops: The Complete Collection of Charles Biro's Visionary 1949 Comic Book Series include an exclusive bookplate signed by the author! Pre-order now to claim yours.


"This beautifully designed and thoroughly researched account collects an experiment in comics history, when writer and cartoonist Biro launched a bold, new kind of comics magazine in 1949, one that would speak to adults instead of children." — Publishers Weekly

"At long last a full reprint of the extraordinary 1949 magazine Tops, which could have totally rewritten American comics history." — Paul Gravett (director, ComICA)

"A complete reprinting of the ill-fated tabloid comic magazine along with [essays that delve] deep into its backstory. ... In fact, it's all the history that really makes this book special." — Forces of Geek

"Tops is an elegant package—attractive and sensitive to its contents. It enlightened me with its history and impressed me with its content, and that's all I can ask of an archival volume." — The Comics Journal


10.9" × 14.3"